NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
The NFL playoffs really started on Sunday night in Week 17, and I previewed that matchup between the Colts and Titans in Nashville here at Doc's. Thought Marcus Mariota would gut it out and play for the Titans, but recommended Indy at -2.5 regardless. That was an easy winner as the Colts rolled to a 33-17 victory - Blaine Gabbert LOL! - to grab the final wild-card spot in the AFC. They visit Houston in the first game this weekend on Saturday afternoon.
Has any general manager had a better year than Indy's Chris Ballard? The Colts' front office looked like a bunch of boobs last season when they fumbled the whole Andrew Luck/shoulder surgery situation. They looked bad again right after the Super Bowl when they had scheduled a press conference to hire Josh McDaniels as their new head coach, only for McDaniels to leave the Colts at the altar to remain New England's offensive coordinator.
Yet, since that almost everything Ballard has touched has been golden. He "settled" on Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich as his head coach, and Reich will get plenty of votes for NFL Coach of the Year, likely finishing second to Chicago's Matt Nagy (the only executive who perhaps has done as well or better than Ballard is the Bears' Ryan Pace).
Then in April, Ballard absolutely crushed it at the draft, trading down with the Jets from No. 3 to No. 6 and still landing the best offensive line prospect on the draft in Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson. He has been an absolute monster this year, and if life was fair would win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Alas, no lineman is going to win that. With his early second-round pick, Ballard grabbed linebacker Darius Leonard of South Carolina State, and he's the Defensive Rookie of the Year favorite and leads the league in tackles. Fourth-round pick Nyheim Hines, a running back from NC State, has proven to be a nice weapon as a receiver out of the backfield. The Colts could be set up to be Super Bowl contenders for a while - as long as Luck stays healthy.
Colts at Texans Betting Story Lines
Saturday will be Indy's first playoff game since losing the AFC Championship in New England following the 2014 season. That game, of course, spawned the whole "Deflategate" B.S. Indianapolis is only the third team in the Super Bowl era to reach the postseason following a 1-5 start. Luck has been magnificent and is a lock for NFL Comeback Player of the Year. In the "most random stat" category, his 39 TD passes (second in NFL) were the most ever by a QB who missed the previous season.
Houston won the AFC South for the third time in four seasons thanks to Sunday's 20-3 victory over a Jaguars team that clearly didn't even want to be in Houston. I wouldn't say that the Texans looked all that great, though. It's a miracle that Deshaun Watson is still upright as he was sacked six more times and has gone down 62, most of any player since the Lions' Jon Kitna was sacked 63 times 12 years ago. That offensive line is a problem. Top running back Lamar Miller doesn't look 100 percent healthy with his ankle injury, either. He did play Sunday after missing a game but hasn't topped 3.3 yards per carry in his past three games.
The Texans are only the second team in the Super Bowl era to start 0-3 and win their division, joining the 1992 Chargers. Remember, Houston's season turned Week 4 in Indianapolis when Reich made a bone-headed fourth-down decision late in overtime that backfired and would lead to the Texans' game-winning field goal. In theory, if everything else went the same this season but Reich punted and the game finished tied, which it would have barring a blocked punt or miracle return, then both Indy and Houston would have finished 10-5-1 and the Colts would have won the division via tiebreaker and be hosting this game.
Indy and Houston are both +1150 long shots to win the AFC. The Colts go to Kansas City with a victory. The Texans would go to New England.
Colts at Texans Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Houston is a 1-point favorite (-128) with a total of 47.5. On the moneyline, the Texans are -128 and Colts +108. There are a gazillion alternate lines, among them: Texans -3 (+120), -3.5 (+145), -7 (+215) and -7.5 (+230). Colts at -3.5 are +180. Indianapolis 8-7-1 against the spread (5-3 on road) and 8-8 "over/under" (4-4 on road). Houston is 7-8-1 ATS (4-4 at home) and 7-9 O/U (3-5 at home).
The Colts have covered six straight vs. teams with a winning record. They are 1-4 ATS in their past five road playoff games. The Texans are 4-1 ATS in their past five vs. the division. They are 1-5 ATS in their previous six against teams with a winning record. The under is 11-4 in the Colts' past 15 vs. the AFC South. It's 5-2 in the Texans' previous seven vs. the division. Indy is 5-0-1 ATS in its past six in Houston. The under is 4-1 in the previous five meetings.
Colts at Texans Betting Prediction
Luck has largely torched Houston this season, completing 65.1 percent of his passes for 863 yards (third-most ever by on QB vs. a team in a single season), six touchdowns and one interception for a quarterback rating of 106.6. He set a career-high with 464 passing yards in that OT loss and then threw for 399 and two scores in a 24-21 victory in Week 14. I like Watson as a player, but he's no Luck. Usually get at least one road team winning wild-card weekend, and the Colts will be the one. Take them on the moneyline and go under.
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